Electrical Fire Prevention

One of the saddest things to hear during the holiday season is the sirens of fire trucks responding to home fires. They remind us of the losses families suffer due to fire disaster, which can include belongings, shelter, and most-tragically, family members. Fire prevention is a neglected topic in many homes, and it is a subject that can reduce residential fires significantly.

One of the biggest ways to prevent hardship during any type of home fire is to have proper fire alarms installed in the home. They should be in every bedroom or outside of every sleeping area, and there should be one on each floor of a home. Early detection is the biggest life saver in a fire emergency, and it can get everyone out before they suffer any injuries from burns or smoke inhalation. Fire alarms should also be checked regularly to make sure batteries are still working, and the fire alarm is functioning.

How many fire alarms do you need?

  • One in every sleeping area
  • One on each floor

How often to check fire alarm?

  • Test once a month
  • Replace batteries 1-2 times a year

Once fire detection is established, fire prevention is the next step to preventing fire tragedy. There are many things that are considered fire hazards including activities such as cooking, but there are some threats of fire that are less visible and can exist and worsen in homes over time as a home ages. One of those causes is electrical fires.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), between 6 and 7 percent of home fires are caused by electrical malfunction. The top types of electrical malfunction are:

  • Electrical distribution, lighting & power transfer:

This is the last part of the delivery of electricity to a home. It can include power surges from large equipment being used, and it is the most common cause of electrical fire.

This category of fires also includes shorts in wiring caused by faulty wiring or worn insulation. The age of wiring can be a contributing factor to this, but so can damage from poor placement of wires or damage from animals or people.

Loose plugs, switches, and the wiring of lights can also be a problem, and they should all be secured and properly insulated.

  • Heating and air conditioning:

Many heating and air conditioning fires start from improper maintenance. This includes keeping flammable items around the units. All types of heating and air conditioning units can be fire hazards, and this category of electrical fire represents 19% of home electrical fires.

  • Kitchen and cooking equipment:

It is easy to predict that a stove or oven could be a fire hazard. However, the act of cooking is not the only hazard. Shorts and damaged equipment poses a fire threat, and gas appliances can exacerbate the risk if not properly maintained.

  • Personal and household equipment:

Anything that requires electricity can be a fire hazard, some things more than others. Check household equipment for worn or frayed cords that could start a fire.

  • Electronic and other electronic equipment:

Only 3 percent of residential electrical fires are classified as from “electronic and other electronic equipment,” but this holds true to the thought that anything that requires power needs to be properly maintained and used according to the instructions in order to be safe.

Self-help and Professional help

Part of the solution to electrical fire prevention in the home relies on the homeowner being vigilant. Nobody else is going to notice if the cords to your appliances are worn or frayed. Nobody else is going to clean around your washer and dryer or your furnace. Proper maintenance and use is the best way for a homeowner to detect electrical issues in the home.

Homeowners can also call an electrician if they notice broken or loose light fixtures, switches or sockets. They should also be called if lights are flickering or power is fluctuating, so it can be determined if there is a short or a circuitry issue.

Electricians can also be very useful in the fire-prevention process.  They can determine whether or not the wiring of the home is up-to-code, and in doing so, they will evaluate the wiring for damage. They can also make sure that GFCI plugs are installed where necessary to prevent the danger of electrical shock.

The danger of fire is real in every home, but it should not keep you up at night worrying about your family and belongings. The first step in eliminating fire hardship is fire detectors for early detection. Then, proper vigilance and looking for fire risks in the home eliminates a lot of common causes of fire such as frayed or crimped wire. Proper cleaning and maintenance of large appliances reduces fire risk. Lastly, an electrician can evaluate your home wiring system to make sure it is up-to-date and in a good status of repair.

Once all of this is done, homeowners can rest easy. It is impossible to totally eliminate the risk of electrical fire, but with minimal work, the risk can be lowered to almost nothing.

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